Can you update me on the status of the Vioxx Settlement?
Approximately 48,500 claimants have now enrolled in the Vioxx Settlement Program which was announced on November 9, 2007. On July 17, 2008, due to overwhelming support for the settlement program by attorneys and Vioxx claimants alike, Merck announced that all Enrollment thresholds had been met and that it was waiving its Walk Away Right under Section 11.1.1 of the Settlement Agreement. As a result, the Enrollment Deadline Date to participate in the Resolution Program has been extended to October 30, 2008.
The Claims Administrator is actively reviewing Claims Packages to determine what claims qualify for compensation through the program. The deadline for submitting Claims Packages was July 1, 2008. With the built-in extensions outlined in Exhibit 1.5 of the Settlement Agreement, claimants have until November 30, 2008, at the latest, to cure any deficiencies in Claims Packages.
Claims that qualify for compensation through the Settlement Program are being issued a Notice of Eligibility. Under the Settlement Agreement, a claim qualifies for compensation if: (1) it meets certain criterion for a heart attack or ischemic stroke as established by a claimant’s medical records; (2) if medical or pharmacy records document that at least 30 Vioxx pills were dispensed to a Vioxx claimant within any 60-day period prior to the injury; and (3) if medical or pharmacy records establish that Vioxx was being used within 14 days of the injury (there are multiple ways (3) can be established, including proof that at least 30 Vioxx pills were dispensed within the 56 days preceding the injury.)
Claims that are deemed ineligible are issued a Notice of Ineligibility. Ineligible claimants have several options, including allowing the claim to be extinguished, appealing to a Special Master, or electing to return to the court system.
Following the Notice of Eligibility, eligible claims will receive a Notice of Points Award, which contains the number of points awarded by the Claims Administrator based upon the Administrator’s objective review of the claimant’s medical and pharmacy records. The amount of money each claimant will receive in association with a claim is determined by multiplying the number of points awarded by the value of each point. The final point value will be determined after all Vioxx claims are evaluated.
On August 28, 2008, the Claims Administrator started issuing interim settlement payments to Claimants who had received and accepted their Notices of Points Awards prior to August 20, 2008. The Master Settlement Agreement provides for interim settlement payments to be made to claimants who submitted claims packages on or before July 1, 2008. Because the settlement fund is limited, and the value of each claim cannot be calculated until all claims are evaluated, the interim settlement payment amount is based upon an estimated point value determined through a statistical analysis of the first 2500 claims evaluated through the program. At this time, the value of a point for a heart attack case is estimated to exceed $1900. The Claims Administrator will continue to issue interim, partial settlement checks until all claims are evaluated, which is anticipated to be mid-2009.
How much is the total settlement?
$4.85 Billion. Four-billion dollars are set aside to deal with heart-related claims, and the remaining $0.85 billion to deal with the stroke-related cases.
Are cases being reviewed alphabetically, or according to severity of injury?
Neither. Generally speaking, cases are being reviewed by the Vioxx Claims Administrator in the order that the claims packages were received by the Administrator.
When will I get paid?
We will notify you as soon as the Vioxx Claims Administrator notifies us that your claim is eligible for compensation through the Vioxx Resolution Program. Under the Settlement Agreement, a claim qualifies for compensation if: (1) it meets certain criterion for a heart attack or ischemic stroke as established by a claimant’s medical records; (2) if medical or pharmacy records document that at least 30 Vioxx pills were dispensed to a Vioxx claimant within any 60-day period prior to the injury; and (3) if medical or pharmacy records establish that Vioxx was being used within 14 days of the injury (there are multiple ways (3) can be established, including proof that at least 30 Vioxx pills were dispensed within the 56 days preceding the injury.)
If your claim meets the above eligibility criteria, the Claims Administrator will issue a Notice of Eligibility, followed shortly by a Notice of Points Award. The Notice of Points Award contains the number of points awarded by the Claims Administrator based upon the Administrator’s objective review of the claimant’s medical and pharmacy records. The amount of money you will receive in association with your claim is determined by multiplying the number of points awarded by the value of each point. The final point value will be determined after all Vioxx claims are evaluated.
On August 28, 2008, the Claims Administrator started issuing interim settlement payments to heart attack claimants. The Claims Administrator will start issuing interim payments to stroke Claimants early next year. The payments will continue to be issued on a monthly basis as the Claims Administrator completes its review of claims.
NOTE: We will not know when and if your claim will receive an interim settlement payment until we receive a Notice of Eligibility and Notice of Points Award from the Claims Administrator. We will notify you immediately once these Notices are issued.
What if I get a Notice of Ineligibility?
Claims that are deemed ineligible, meaning the Claims Administrator has determined after an objective review of a claimant’s medical and pharmacy records that the claim does not meet the three eligibility criteria under the Settlement Agreement, are issued a Notice of Ineligibility. Ineligible claimants have several options, including allowing the claim to be extinguished, appealing to a Special Master, or electing to return to the court system.
We will notify you immediately if we receive a Notice of Ineligibility, and we will explain to you your options.
How soon will I hear about review results on my case?
Results of reviews of heart-related cases are coming out now, so if you have a heart-related case, we could hear about your case at any time, but probably at some point this fall. If you have a stroke-related claim, we do not expect to begin hearing about those cases until February, 2009.
I received my Notice of Eligibility, so how soon before I get my Notice of Points Award?
The length of time varies. We will forward you the Notice of Points Award as soon as we receive it.
For more information on the Points System visit the Official Vioxx Calculator website.
After I receive my Notice of Points Award, how soon before I get paid?
This is not an easy question because so many factors are involved. Assuming that you do not receive government needs-based benefits that may need to be protected, and assuming that you do not wish to structure your settlement proceeds for retirement purposes, you should receive an interim settlement payment within 60 days from the date on which you accept the findings in the Notice of Points Award. Of course, if you wish to appeal any aspect of the award, or if you intend to protect needs-based benefits, your payment will be delayed.
Must I pay taxes if I get a settlement?
These funds are considered compensatory damages and, therefore, are not taxable under the Federal code.
NOTE: You should contact a tax professional or tax lawyer to discuss the tax implications of this settlement.
Will I have to pay the attorneys’ fees or other financial obligations such as a Medicare lien?
You are responsible for paying attorneys’ fees and any medical liens that have been asserted against the claim. Attorneys’ fees will be withheld from your settlement prior to a check being issued to you. Because the Claims Administrator is responsible for negotiating the resolution of any governmental medical liens, such as Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare, VA, etc., any such liens will also be withheld prior to a check being issued to you.
Private, third party liens will only be withheld from your settlement check if Beasley Allen receives notice of those liens or if you ask Beasley Allen to negotiate a lien on your behalf. Thus, it is important that you notify Beasley Allen if a lien has been asserted against you, or if you have an obligation to notify your healthcare insurer or employer-sponsored health plan of the settlement.
Can I lose Medicare or other benefits if my settlement is too large?
The only benefits that you are at risk for losing are needs-based benefits. You will not lose entitlement benefits. We provide to you information regarding benefits that could be lost when we forward a Notice of Eligibility. We have engaged the Garretson Law Firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, which specializes in protecting benefits, to assist all of our clients.
If you receive benefits that you are concerned may be lost, you can contact the Garretson Law Firm at 1-888-770-5971. Just let them know that you are a Beasley Allen client, and the staff at the Garretson Law Firm will assist you with these issues, and will relay to us any information we need.
How much will the first payment be?
Interim settlement payments are based upon 40% of the estimated settlement value of the case.
How much will the final payment be?
It will be the balance owed based on the final point value once it is calculated. This cannot be done until the Claims Administrator has determined the exact number of qualifying claimants. For more information visit the Official Vioxx Calculator website.
How much is a point worth?
The point value varies monthly based upon a statistical analysis of the claims evaluated to date. Currently, the estimated point value is $1915. This value, however, is likely to fluctuate.
For more information on the Points System visit Official Vioxx Calculator website.
How much are attorneys’ fees and case costs?
Per Order of the Court, attorneys’ fees have been set at 32% of the gross settlement in each case.
Will the extraordinary financial losses be included in the payments?
No, payment for this claim will be made from a separate fund. The extraordinary claims are still under investigation and will not be resolved until the end of the process.
How will payments be sent?
Payments will be made by check and sent via certified mail.
If something happens to me before I receive my settlement, can I name a beneficiary?
You cannot name a beneficiary. You should take the steps necessary for proper estate planning, including having a Will drafted which designates to whom any of your property will be devised.
Have most MI (heart attack) claimants that have been found eligible under the Agreement been notified?
Yes. As soon as we receive a Notice of Eligibility, we forward it to you.
Was the deadline to submit MI packets to the CA extended to 10/30? If so, why?
The 10/30 date is not an extension, but a deadline for completing the transfer of records for those claims which were submitted prior to the 7/1 deadline without complete records (e.g., such as for those where we had to subpoena records).